We often drive through Herefordshire, our neighbouring county to the south of our home county of Shropshire when we visit gardens. Herefordshire has many beautiful private gardens open under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme and a few larger ones open more often so we have driven along miles of the county’s tiny winding lanes. These lanes take us through so many tiny villages many with equally tiny churches.
We decided to explore some of these diminutive churches and find out more about them. We are not interested in those large churches built from the wool money, as these lack the character of their smaller cousins. They sit on high ground and dominate the local area. The little churches we are looking at are much more central to the village and appear to be grounded in their community rather than dominating it.
This is the first in a series about these miniature churches when we will be looking at the Church of St Michael at Brimfield.
We drove south from home down the A49 knowing we had to find a left turn not far after bypassing the market town of Ludlow. We found the sign and turned into a narrow lane where we looked out for signs to the village church. After spotting the sign we discovered that the church was down a gravel road. We soon spotted the church through the trees and it certainly looked very interesting. So we parked up on a grass patch by the churchyard walls and searched for the gateway.
St Michael’s is constructed in sandstone from local quarries but for added interest it has a wood-framed porch and top tower section. When we reached the porch we noticed a stone font on the grass on one corner. Today it probably acts as a very effective birdbath!
St Michael’s was founded in the C12 but its tower was added later. The lower two stages were built in the C13 with the top section, built in timber added in the C17. The tower houses 3 bells, one Medieval, one early C16 and the third added in 1659.
We were surprised how bright and airy the inside of the church felt. Freshly painted white walls bounced the light around the nave and sent alternating bands of light and shade across the aisle.
We wandered around the interior in search of interesting features.
We always look out for interesting windows when we visit churches and St Michael’s boasted a stunning modern stained glass window in shades of blue depicting the dove of peace. Older windows were plain but beautifully proportioned. The light fitting hanging down from the ceiling had once been home for oil lamps and then gas lamps before the current electric bulbs.
We were pleased to notice links to the local community, original art pieces by the local Women’s Institute and children from the local school. It feels good to see newer pieces of art alongside and on equal terms with ancient carvings in wood and stone.
Returning outside, coats were rapidly buttoned up and we donned hats and scarves against the February chill. We wandered around the outside of the building, where we discovered our blue window, a blocked up door and battered sheds and add-ons.
Returning to the car we looked for textures in the grave stones and their sundries.
St Michaels’ in Brimfield gave us a good start in our search for interesting little churches of Herefordshire. In part 2 we study another diminutive village church a short distance away.